|Astros' Correa expected back to face Mariners|
HOUSTON -- Astros shortstop Carlos Correa looked the part of someone poised to contribute, and given his extended absence, his presence was a welcome sight in the home clubhouse.
Correa is scheduled to be reinstated from the 10-day disabled list Friday, ending a 36-game hiatus caused by lower back soreness. Correa landed on the DL on June 26 and has endured a methodical rehabilitation process, one that culminated with a five-game rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi that included Correa going 3-for-16 with a home run for the Hooks.
The Astros (73-43) were 21-15 with Correa on the DL following their 8-6 loss to Seattle on Thursday. Correa was slashing .268/.352/.480 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs before the injury ended a legit bid at a second consecutive All-Star selection. The Astros are 46-27 with Correa in the lineup.
"We wouldn't bring him back if we didn't expect him to be ready," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "This is a scheduled off day for him, and then assuming nothing happens on the off day, he'll be ready to go (Friday)."
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (10-4, 2.64 ERA) will start for the Astros in Friday's game against Seattle. He took the loss in both his starts on the recently completed road trip, allowing five runs on 10 hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings against the Mariners and Dodgers.
Cole is 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA over three career starts against Seattle, and two of those appearances came this season, when he went 1-1 with a 1.32 ERA. He gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Mariners on July 30 and took the loss in Seattle's 2-0 victory.
Right-hander Mike Leake (8-7, 4.16 ERA) takes the ball for Seattle (66-50) on Friday. Leake has recorded a quality start in four consecutive appearances dating to July 15. That includes his previous start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, when he allowed three runs on nine hits with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in a 6-3 win.
Leake is 6-5 with a 3.67 ERA over 12 career starts against the Astros and is 6-6 with a 3.72 ERA over 14 career appearances against Houston.
Leake is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts against the Astros this season.
Mariners manager Scott Servais made official what had been rumored recently, announcing that veteran right-hander Felix Hernandez has moved to the bullpen effective immediately. Hernandez (8-10, 5.73 ERA) was slated to make his 399th career start in the series finale on Sunday. Instead, his next appearance will be the first of his 14 years with Seattle as a reliever.
An All-Star as recently as 2015, Hernandez has suffered a steady decline since then, going 25-23 over the last two-plus seasons.
The American League Cy Young Award winner in 2010, Hernandez finished in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting six times between 2009-15. However, this season he is sporting a career-worst ERA and a career-low 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. His 1.435 WHIP is the highest of his career. Hernandez last posted a quality start on June 25 at Baltimore. He is 1-4 with a 7.85 ERA over six starts since.
"Very difficult (conversation)," Servais said. "Certainly respect him and everything he's done here throughout his career but these things happen and ultimately it's about the team. It's never easy but again hopefully he takes it the right way. He'll get a chance to pitch at some point down there and maybe he can work his way back in the rotation. We'll see. He'll let us know on that."